Thursday, January 26, 2006

Going Drug Free

Well, my last refill of Paroxetine (generic for Paxil) has run out, and I haven't made an appointment to get a refill. I'm still trying to decide if I ought to, or if I want to. Truth to tell I'm avoiding a doctor's appointment I know I ought to get (I'm due for a cholesterol check too), because I can't bloody make up my mind whether I want to continue taking anti-depressants or not.

I went on Paroxetine just about two years ago. My wonderful, sane, primary-care physician at that time gave me enough support and just the right amount of freedom to let me say OK, and give it a try. I had gone to him because one day, that to me felt like any other day, I had run into an on-line depression test, and being the little test-hound that I am, had taken it.

To my shock, I rated 30 on a scale that only went to 33. The advice was "Make an immediate appointment with your mental health professional. If necessary call a hotline." I hunted down a good dozen different tests for depression. The results were universal. The best rating I got was moderately depressed. The 30 out of 33 was not the worst. What made this so shocking to me, was that was how I rated on an ordinary day. Not particularly bad, not particularly good - just a day. I had had far worse days in my life many times. If this was how my ordinary day looked, how would I rate on a truly bad day. How would I have rated in college, when suicide ideation was practically a way of life?

For the first time since college, I felt as if I might be crazy. How could my normal state of being be so far from healthy? So I went to my doctor (thank God I had switched from my previous PCP, who was just plain weird), and he heard me out, asked me some serious questions, and made me a proposal.

I was - he thought - probably depressed, with a dollop of anxiety thrown in for good measure. It felt normal to me, simply because I had been that way for so long. (At that point 26 years!) At the same time he took my aversion to unnecessary drug-taking seriously. So he gave me a four-week course of Paroxetine - no prescription, just sample packs - and made an appointment that day, for me to come back in four weeks for re-evaluation. (Note to physicians - have your patients make their return appointments on their way out the door. Saves lots of dithering on their part later.) If I had side-effects, or the anti-depressant didn't help me significantly, we'd talk about other options. If it did help, then we would talk about a prescription.

I cannot describe what happened about two weeks later when the Paroxetine kicked in. It wasn't gradual, and it wasn't mistakeable. I was coming home from dropping the littlest munchkin off at pre-school, and I suddenly felt happy. It wasn't a sensation I was used to. It was literally stunning. I had felt satisfaction, or joy, or humorous before, but I could not recall being simply happy - ever. I went and took a walk on a brisk, windy day for the sheer joy of stretching my muscles and feeling the wind. I floated through that day - was that what other people actually felt like? It seemed too good to be actually true.

And it was - sort of. That day was a ten on the happiness scale. I didn't stay on a constant ten after the Paroxetine kicked in, that would take different (and illegal) drugs. But I was consistantly happier, more relaxed, less anxious. I got more done. I slept well for the first time in my life (yes my entire life, I was a child insomniac.). By the time I came back for my second appointment I was more than ready for a prescription.

My PCP at that time gave me a suggested schedule. Given the duration of my depression, he felt that it was likely I would need lifetime anti-depressants, but he didn't want to leap to that immediately. So he suggested that I should take Paroxetine for six months, then stop for a month to exaluate. If my depression returned, I would go back on it, this time for two years. That would be followed by another break and evaluation. If after two and a half years, I still needed an anti-depressant to have a normal scale of emotion, then he would make the prescription lifetime. It seemed (and seems) a sensible solution to me, and one I agreed to.

And then we moved over 1000 miles.

At the end of my initial six month prescription I waited a month, then went to my new PCP, in my new state. We discussed things, and I went back on Paroxetine. I felt normal emotionally, but my sleeping was disturbed again. When the drug levels in my bloodstream ramped back up, I realized that I had slipped back emotionally as well, but that depression still reads as "normal" on my internal meters. Unfortunately my new PCP was someone, who while nice, and perfectly acceptable in all other ways, didn't read as safe to my emotional self, and thereby wasn't going to hear the full confession. (To be fair to the perfectly nice and competant man, PCP #1 is the only doctor in a lifetime of them that has felt safe in that way.) Which leaves me to try to sort things out myself.

Now this second prescription has run out. To complicate things even more, PCP #2 has left the practice, so when I go to my next appointment I'll be dealing with a stranger. It's been about 2 weeks since I took my last pill, and I'm still completely undecided if I want to continue taking them or not. I feel normal - but I always feel normal. I'm not sleeping particularly well, but my life is a busy mess at the moment, so I don't know if it's the lack of Paroxetine or just life that's doing it. I can't trust my new PCP to sort out if I'm sliding into depression or not because I cover so damn well when I'm dealing with other people. I have never, ever had someone diagnose me as depressed based on my behavior or self-description except for PCP #1. That includes the therapist at college when I was playing with knives at night. She told me that I was one of the sanest people she'd ever met - that's how well I cover in person. So I'm left to decide on my own to make a decision about going on an anti-depressant for life. And I don't know what to do.

I hate the idea of taking a pill every day for the rest of my life. I also hate the idea of spending the rest of my life in a fog of depression, anxiety, and self-criticism when I don't have to. I desperately, desperately wish PCP #1 were available because I could trust his judgement as to whether the Paroxetine is something I need or not. There's no one else who can give me a view both accurate and unclouded. My husband is already on three drugs a day, every day, doesn't mind, doesn't see why I should. The Paroxetine doesn't cause me any side effects, why not take it? My in-laws feel similarly. My own parents haven't gotten over the shock I needed an anti-depressant in the first place, and refuse to consider the idea I might need one for life. I think they feel it reflects badly on their parenting. None of my really close friends live near enough to see me more than once or twice a year - they're in no position to judge my state of mind, and it would be unfair to ask them to.

So I've come here, and I'm rambling on to the world at large at 1am because I don't know what to do. Whenever I overcome my inertia and make my next doctor's appointment, what I choose to do and say, and how I choose to present myself is going to decide this. And I can't even decide if the obsessing I'm doing is evidence for a recurrence of depression and anxiety, or simply reflective of how seriously I'm taking the decision.

Friday, January 20, 2006


A company called Sew Fast/Sew Easy is trying to trademark the terms Stitch and Bitch, Stitch & Bitch, Stitch 'n Bitch, and the various versions thereof. They've gone so far as to send letters out to various local knitting and/or sewing groups telling them to quit using the name. The button leads to a Cafe Press store selling items to fund the legal fight against them. Read more at The Knitting Curmudgeon or at You Knit What?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Stunning Speech

I commend to your attention the MLK day speech given by Al Gore. It is quite literally stunning.

All I can say is that I hope we come to our collective senses before we become the nightmare example people use to scare their children with in the next generation. To all the people who don't understand what happened in Nazi Germany, or in fascist Italy, take a good look around. It doesn't start with people yelling for genocide in the streets. It starts with what seems like a reasonable and logical assumption of power.

Do we really think that our lives are harder, and in more danger than our ancestors were in the Revolutionary War, or in the Civil War, or during the Cold War? It's an insult to our ancestors and what they faced. Yet they not only maintained, but in the Revolutionary War, set in place, the very safeguards we are currently allowing the executive branch to dismantle.

What use is it to win the War on Terror, if we do it by becoming terrorists?

I am very afraid for all of us.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Getting My Act Together

OK, Becky over at Sketches and More (see sidebar) is on a quest to lose weight, which I'm joining her in. My beginning weight as of last Monday was 212.8 (God how I hate that two at the beginning). Next weigh-in is tomorrow, but I'm not sure how that's going to be, as it's the last couple of days before my period, and I usually put on 3-5 lbs. of water weight then. So I'll weigh myself tomorrow morning, but probably do it again two days later to get an idea of how my cycle was affecting things.

Based on past experience, my weight is intertwined with a number of other things in my life. So expect to be seeing notes on my attempts to a) Clean up the house (much easier to exercise, and concentrate on the rest of my life if I'm not tripping over things constantly). b) The quest to get published (because when I feel more accomplished I'm less prone to anxiety eating). c) The quest to get out of debt (ditto on the anxiety eating).

As of right this moment, my weight is 47.8 pounds over where I want to be. I would also like to be able to run a mile without switching to a walk, and to do a clapping push-up. My house is about 70% wreck. The kitchen is useable, but not clean, the family room isn't too bad, the dining room is OK, the living room needs the holiday detritus removed, the basement is good. Everything else (office, kids' rooms, master bedroom, bathrooms) is a disaster. Meals are not well organized, laundry is sporadic, bills are mostly OK, but running very tight right now. On the writing front, I have one short story submitted, and doing considerable writing and editing, but I'm not being paid for any of it. I need to get some more of my finished stories out there, and to finish novel #1 so I can start submitting it to agents and publishers.

And that's the state of the me. Periodic updates as I try to climb out of the hole.

Friday, January 13, 2006

May the Plot Be With You

Here's a fabulous article by Nick Lowe explaining the mechanics of bad, but successful, writing. Very funny, very informative, and apparently he feels about the same way about the Thomas Covenant series that I do.

In all seriousness, part of the problem of attempting to write and sell an SF novel, is that many, or even most, publishers don't want the truly original, but at the same time, they don't want hackneyed. So you have to use all the tried and true plot devices and character types that read as SF, or you're likely to be rejected (esp. as a first time author), but you have to use them in disguised, or novel ways. A hard balancing act to manage.

Of course, this is one of the reasons I get so annoyed at successful SF or Fantasy writers who rest on their laurels, turning out more books of the same, instead of trying to really improve their writing and plotting. My classical example is Mercedes Lackey. Don't get me wrong, she's a good solid writer, and she's done some pretty fabulous books, but she rarely pushes herself. Her emphasis is on quantity of saleable books, rather than on the quality of her books. This is perfectly understandable from an individual author's standpoint - after all she has to make a living - but I think it damages, or at least signally fails to help, the standing of the genre as a whole. It annoys me sufficiently that I simply don't buy any of her new books unless I've read them from the library first, and know that I like them enough to reread them.

There's a number of authors that fall into this category for me. In fact, it's much rarer to find an author who's consistently willing to push herself and her craft rather than turning out more of the same over and over again.

Maybe I should thank them, after all, it's likely to make it easier for me to get published, as the standards are not as high as they could (or should) be. But I'd rather have a plethora of fabulous new books to aspire to, instead of trying to make mine hit exactly the right amount of hackitude.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Top Ten on Gay Marriage

Here's a wonderfully snarky post from LabKat on the subject.

I get very tired of the conversations with my parents on this subject, most of which boil down to "but it's wrong and icky!" in fancier language. I would find it odd from my agnostic and scientifically oriented parents - except that when it comes to politics in general and issues like gay marriage in particular it seems like their ability to reason soundly just flies out the window.

Since she gives permission to repost, here's the list.

10 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong

01) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

02) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

03) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

04) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

05) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

06) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

07) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

08) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.

09) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Re-post this if you believe love makes a marriage

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Writing, Writing, and more Writing

Boy, when the need to write kicked in, it wasn't kidding.

No, I'm not talking about my psychological need to write, that's being amply taken care of these days, thank you. I'm talking about my actual obligation to produce written material.

Up until now, other than the annual madness that is National Novel Writing Month, my writing has been almost exclusively optional. I wrote because I loved to, and because I hope one day to make some sort of income from it.

All that changed in a week.

First, I joined the crew at DamnInteresting! This requires that I research and write two, roughly one page, articles a week. Fine, no problem. Good times all 'round. And yes they are. So far I have two articles up, two articles drafted, and another in the works. I'm having a blast with it. Better yet, the articles I have posted have been well-received, which is wonderful.

Then, a long-time friend and fellow writer asked me to collaborate on a novel with her. Wonderful! This is someone whose writing I admire very much, and who's ability to turn out high quality stuff in huge quantity astounds me. With any luck, collaborating with her will allow me to pick up a few of her habits myself. Plus it's a darned fascinating book.

Then another friend asked if I would be willing to function as an editor as she takes a high-level writing course. Since I already do this for yet another friend, this is perfectly fine and something I enjoy doing.

But I sit down to make my list of things to do today, and find I've got three mandatory writing tasks and an uncounted slew of slightly less urgent writing to do. When did this happen? It's not a bad thing; I'm not complaining. It's just very different from my writing life up until now.

I guess I get to find out if the life of a professional writer is for me. Now if only I can add in that income...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Learning as I go

Slowly, slowly, I'm figuring out how this thing works. Today's innovation was figuring out how to link to people. So Becky, Craig, and Amanda are now all in my links list. I'll add more as the spirit moves me.

For those interested, Becky blogs on sketching (with regular photos of some of her work), knitting, and karate, while Craig is a friend IRL who posts on politics, and Amanda of Pandagon is my most regular read. Pandagon is a feminist blog, and packs some serious attitude and fun.

I figure it'll take me a few months to really feel comfortable diddling with my template, but at least I've taken my first baby-step.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And sometimes it rocks!

I have my first writing gig!

OK, so it doesn't pay, but I get a by-line, and the writing is fun and regular, and the site gets quite a few hits. If nothing else I think it will be good for me to be writing to a deadline for a while.

The site is Damn Interesting! , and I should be posting under the by-line Tapetum approximately twice a week. It's a fun site to poke around in, interesting trivia from science, history, etc. Whatever tickles the writer's fancy.

Another plus, it got me a brief tutorial from S on how to attach photos. Over to the right, see the image from my first article. I feel like a genius!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sometimes it just sucks

My favorite writing group is folding.

I've been involved there for a little over a year, writing reviews, submitting my own work, and generally enjoying the hell out of getting to interact with a group of like-minded novice writers. It's rare to find a group that is so supportive of one another, and where everyone is seriously trying to improve their own writing, and helpfully critiquing others writing.

Now the site owners are shutting it down, and it really, really sucks. It's not their fault by any means. They've done a stellar job of maintaining a wonderful, supportive, active site. They've put in a great deal of time effort and money, and generally recieved very little thanks in return (If you ever come over here, THANK YOU NIC AND CHRIS!!) However the site traffic has been dying off steadily until we are down to about a dozen regulars, and they feel they can no longer support it.

Frankly I feel guilty because I am one who frequently drops out of the community for up to a couple of weeks at a time, and then comes back. Usually I'm only a consistent commenter when I have stuff of my own to put up, though I do review more than is simply necessary to post. I read lots of the stuff, and review a good bit when I'm active, it's just that I'm only active when I have something going myself. So even though I know my specific participation, or lack thereof, did not kill the forum, I can't help but feel I was a contributor to the problem.

Sigh. I hope I can maintain contact with some of these people. They really were a wonderful group to hang out with.